Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review, The Greatest Show On Earth.

Book Review, The Greatest Show On Earth, Dawkins

This is a short review of Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth. The Evidence for Evolution published by Free Press (Paperback edition 2010). What we have here is vintage Dawkins, unrelenting in cold logic, full of humor and a passion for his craft (you can always tell an author's passion by the loving detail and anecdotes even down to the footnote). It is written in a popular level but has a respectable bibliography for further research down the more academic route.

In the opinion of this reviewer Dawkins more than satisfies what he sets out to accomplish, namely build a case for evolution based on different lines of evidence. What I found most convincing is the proof of his propositions based on the molecular scale and DNA/RNA. There is at this point in the game no reasonable doubt for evolution based on the best of the scientific peer-reviewed secondary literature from diverse fields and disciplines from around the world.

Many people have fleeced Dawkins for his "bullying tactics" and overall critical attacks on religion in general and Christianity in particular. But I respond - are we not the same when we are pressing our particular point of view over on someone? This is simply the case of a man filled with passion and completely convinced of the correctness of his view. Our sensibilities are offended because he attempts to mount an attack on our intellectual "sacred cows" as it were. Is our faith so weak that it cannot stand the best intellectual criticism that the best minds have to offer? I declare that it is not and it can withstand under close microscopic scrutiny.

My main quarrel with Greatest Show is that it offers no real alternative to Intelligent Design (and to Dawkin's merit as a clear and sober analytical thinker he admits that he has no concrete response to this at the moment - and that RNA World Theory seems the most plausible explanation for the origin of life at this point). In other words granting the probability of evolution (the how) the big question of (why) it started in the first place remains unanswered in Greatest Show. Is there a purpose in the endless replication of gene informational transfer? Dawkins answers, "We are surrounded by endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random natural selection - the only game in town, the greatest show on earth" (p. 426). Yes, yes, yes, granted but this is the how and not the why.

Ultimately non-theistic evolution has no answer for this timeless question. On the other hand as many equally great thinkers have been responding to Dawkins et al from diverse fields (biology, mathematics, philosophical and theological) the proposition that evolution is a mighty tool used by an Intelligent Designer breaks no laws of formal logic and best compounds for the evidence that we see from nature and from the innate yearnings that we have in our deepest psyche.

I heartily recommend this book when read in the company of the best of "evolutionary theistic" works.

R. E. Aguirre

1 comment:

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